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In the Whale

"On a Roll," the first of three songs on Eric, In the Whale's bombastic new EP, tells a story that could fit seamlessly into a vintage Sam Peckinpah Western: "Forty-five hours to the Mexican border/I got the sheriff's daughter and he's breathing down my shoulder," sings Nate Valdez. Instead of old cowboy music, though, the soundtrack to this tale of a fugitive's flight is utterly modern rock and roll. Valdez belts out emotive power-pop vocals and strums distortion-laden power chords with vigor. Eric Riley, meanwhile, beats out a 4/4 drum line that's danceable in every sense of the word. "Girlfriend," a desperate, frantic plea for a romantic partner, and "Sunbeam," a moody and violent declaration, show the same broad mix of powerful rock and compelling stories. The release is all the more impressive because it's the work of just two people.